Cooking

Only 11% of British adults cook the majority of their meals from scratch, says the remaining 89% mainly rely on takeaways or ready meals. In the past 12 months, one in ten Britons admit to not having cooked at all, and to having relied entirely on takeaways or pre-prepared food. Men are less likely to cook than women: 16% haven’t cooked at all, compared with 5% of women.

These are truly amazing statistics.  No wonder so many people are over-weight.  Unless you buy ready-cooked meals from an upscale restaurant (expensive) you don’t know how much salt and other additives there are in them. Aside from this I assume that, while buying in saves time, it is more expensive to buy in ready- cooked food, if you costed it out.

Epicurus, contrary to the fake news put out by the Christian church in the centuries after his death, is supposed to have regarded bread and water as a feast.  His diet was simple, to say the least.  The writer cannot emulate Epicurus, but then he has a wife who is a stellar cook and only cooks fresh food at every meal, unless we go out to eat.   Guess I am very lucky.

Messing up the trade war

Dictatorships are un-Epicurean.  Period.  Thus, standing up to China, which already  by some measures is economically ahead to the US (dear, oh, dear) is to be applauded.  While I agree that politics should not be discussed on this forum, resisting dictators and would-be dictators intent on world domination seems to be a no-brainer.

It appears that, after all the fuss about the US-China trade agreement, all that has been achieved is to get an undertaking from China to “buy more American farm goods”.  That is all. Left untouched are all the handouts and subsidies given by China to companies operating overseas, something everyone in the West agreed should be reduced or eliminated during the negotiations in the cause of a level playing field.  The US objective was to close the trade deficit with China.  Instead, it has risen from $544 billion in 2016 to $691 billion in the 12 months ending in October.  Meanwhile US tariffs are affecting US consumers and companies, and Chinese retaliation on US farm exports is hitting American farmers badly – the farm bailout has already cost more than twice the bailout of the auto industry under Obama.  According to diplomatic sources, Chinese officials are “jubilant and even incredulous” – out-negotiating the US was easy, so they claim.

Few in the US understand or seem to care, except for some in academia and the civil service.  But who listens to them anymore?

(Paul Krugman commented on this issue in the New York Times, 17 Dec 2019.  The opinions are  my own)

The Good Husband Guide for 2020

Care of the Husband’s Person

On 8 April 2010 the London Review of Books reviewed a 14th Century Parisian book of household management called The Good Wife’s Guide: A Medieval Household Book.   This is a compendium of medieval lore which aimed to instruct young wives how to be good, efficient, and obedient.  The following is an excerpt from a section entitled Care of the Husband’s Person.  (It’s fun, so I am repeating it ten years later):

“Therefore love your husband’s person carefully.  I entreat you to see that he has clean linen, for that is your domain, while the concerns and troubles of men are those outside affairs that they must handle, amidst coming and going, running here and there, in rain, wind, snow and hail, sometimes drenched, sometimes dry, now sweating, now shivering, ill-fed, ill-lodged, ill-shod and poorly rested.  Yet nothing represents a hardship for him, because the thought of his wife’s good care for him on his return comforts him immensely.  The ease, joys and pleasures he knows she will provide for him herself, or have done for him in his presence, cheer him:  removing his shoes in front of a good fire, washing his feet, offering clean shoes, and socks, serving plenteous food and drink …. she puts him to sleep in white sheets  and his nightcap, covered with good furs, and satisfies him with other joys and amusements, intimacies, loves and secrets about which I remain silent.”

 With the above in mind let us now fast forward seven hundred years, noting the changed roles of husband and wife.  This is the 2020 version:

Care of the Wife’s Person (2020)

“Therefore love your wife’s person carefully.  I entreat you, before you sit down to watch sport on television all day with a can of beer in hand, to see that she has clean underclothes, for the washing machine is your domain, as is the washing up and the making of the bed in the morning.  The concerns and troubles of women are those outside affairs that they must handle, amidst taking the children to school, getting the car serviced, running here and there in rain, wind, snow and hail, sometimes drenched, sometimes dry, now sweating, now shivering, dealing with the bank, the mortgage and an unsympathetic boss, buying new shoes for the children and taking them to football practice, violin lessons and ballet; getting her facial, haircut and manicure and answering all the emails during her half hour lunch break. 

“Despite eating on the run, arranging all the social commitments and the visits of plumbers and electricians, nothing represents a hardship for her, because the thought of her husband’s good care for her on her return home comforts her immensely.  The ease, joys and pleasures she knows he will provide for her cheer her:  removing her shoes in front of a good fire, washing her feet, offering clean shoes, and socks, cooking plenteous food and pouring copious drink …. he puts her to sleep in white sheets, and, after he brings her a nice hot drink of cocoa and she has taken her anti-depressants, he tries to satisfies her with other joys and amusements, intimacies, loves and secrets, before she falls asleep exhausted.  As to his feelings about this I remain silent.”

——————————————-

The Good Wife’s Guide: A Medieval Household Book was translated by Gina Greco and Christine Rose and published by Cornell, £16.95, March 2009, ISBN 978-0-8014-7474-3.

Management of tax and the deficit

The six big US tech firms. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Apple and Microsoft are accused of avoiding tax by shifting revenue and profits through tax havens or low-tax countries, like Ireland.  They are also accused of deliberately delaying payment of what tax they do end up paying.  Fair Tax Mark accuses Amazon of being the worst culprit.  Over the last decade its revenues have been $960.5 billion and its profits were $26.8 billion.  During this period it has actually paid $3.4 billion in US tax, an effective rate of 12.7%, instead of the 35% nominal tax.  Amazon, in reply, say that in fact they paid 24% between the years 2010 and 2018, or roughly the same period. We don’t know the truth.

Meanwhile, the US budget deficit is exploding and you can’t let that go on indefinitely.  It Is both stupid and short-sighted.  The signs point towards another financial crisis; the only thing we don’t know is when that will happen, not if. We know big tech, like the healthcare industry, gets special treatment.  The problem is that the poor and the middle class are the sufferers.

Why is this a matter for followers of Epicurus? Because you cannot have peace of mind when you don’t know when the house of cards will collapse yet again. For those with money they have nowhere else to put it, so are stuck with the stock market which continues to rise , for the time being.  For those without money and With maxed out credit cards, auto loans etc, the disaster, when it comes, will be as bad, or worse, than 2008.
I have done a post on being positive – it helps you live longer.  Getting tough, being positive!  Probably the answer is to ignore the dissonance, but then you are not being a responsible, well- informed citizen.  Any ideas?

Micro-plastics

Microplastics can’t be seen, can’t be smelled, can’t be heard – and can’t be stopped.

As a result of our 50-year addiction to plastics, microplastics are now ubiquitous in the environment. These tiny fragments, formed as plastic breaks apart into ever-smaller pieces, are found in soil, water and air. They rain down on us 24/7 and have entered the food chain and water supply. There is little or no prospect of cleaning them up, and the load will inevitably get worse as the approximately 8 billion tonnes of plastic we have manufactured over the past century or so breaks up but doesn’t biodegrade.

Concern about microplastics has so far largely focused on wildlife and the environment, and there is evidence of harms to both. But now attention is turning to us. What, if anything, do these particles do to the human body?

At this point, there are more questions than answers. To put our ignorance into perspective, we don’t even know for sure that the very smallest fragments, called nanoplastics, actually exist – even though they are hypothesised to be the most harmful to our health.

The good news is that researchers are waking up to the potential threat and scrambling to find some answers. The bad news is that it will take years to properly evaluate the problem. As yet, funding is paltry: just a few million euros.

It may turn out to be a false alarm. If microplastics posed a specific threat to human health, perhaps we would have seen it by now. If that feels like clutching at (plastic) straws, that is because it is. Even if we get lucky this time, the natural world will be paying the price of our so-called ingenuity for decades to come.  ( New Scientist 21 Dec 2019)

Plastic manufacturers, who profited in the first place, should be encouraged (fined?)  to pay for research into micro-plastics and the ever-increasing amounts of waste being created every day.  Of course, we are talking about the oil industry, with the powerful ( well- oiled) lobbying machine that protects it. How are we to call industry to account for what they they doing, free of financial risk, to our environment?

Hourly husbands

Our local news website circulated the following message yesterday:

Hourly Husbands

”I just had Jose come round and take care of my list of things todo!!  Never used them before, but Jose was great!!  Prompt, polite and cleaned up after himself.  Very grateful to get all those pesky little chores done!!!  Thank you Jose – will definitely use them again!!“

My comment: As you probably guess Jose, and the company concerned, undertakes odd jobs around the home.

But I did reflect on the fact that, if they catch on, hourly husbands could prove extraordinarily popular with women of all ages.  Think about it!

 

Optimism boosts longevity

People with optimistic outlooks tend to live longer than their more negative peers, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have found. The study drew on data from two long-running studies of Americans aged over 60: one of 1,500 male war veterans, and one of 70,000 female nurses.

At the start of both, the participants had completed questionnaires to gauge how optimistic they were, and had also been asked about other factors likely to influence their longevity, including diet, health and exercise. Analysis of the data, adjusted to take account of these “confounders”, revealed that most optimistic participants lived 10% to 15% longer on average than the least optimistic ones, and that they were significantly more likely to live to the age of 85.

“Healthier behaviours and lower levels of depression only partially explained our findings,” said lead researcher Dr Lewina Lee. “Initial evidence from other studies suggests that more optimistic people tend to have goals and the confidence to reach them, are more effective in problem-solving, and they may be better at regulating their emotions during stressful situations.” The exciting possibility raised by the findings, she added, is that we may be able to “promote healthy and resilient ageing by cultivating psycho-social assets such as optimism” in people.   (The Week, 7 September 2019)

This is all good stuff, but I think Epicurus had a more practical idea: seek ataraxia (peace of mind).  This requires you not to get wound up in the bad news and dreadful partisanship of ……well, almost anywhere in the world you live.  If you cannot ignore the debilitating effect of party politics, then try to let it go over your head. I read the local paper every day but try not to allow the political bits to rouse me (not invariably successfully!).  Instead, I concentrate on the good things I have in life, my marriage being the best.  This isn’t quite eternal optimism , but it is thankfulness for the blessings I have.

..

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Thanks, but no thanks for Menorah: Another intrusion of religion

“My mother-in-law is a right-wing evangelical Christian who voted for Donald Trump and thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old. She is also, frankly, not very insightful.

“She just gave my family a menorah. We belong to a Jewish Humanist congregation, which pretty much sums up my beliefs—proud of my Jewish heritage but agnostic. My atheist husband (her son) belongs, too. She buys into the “love Israel” Kool-Aid that evangelicals are drinking these days.

“The menorah she gave us is from one of those horrible messianic organizations that’s in the business of converting Jews. They want to bring Jews to Israel because that’s a prerequisite for the return of Jesus.

“I would like to calmly and politely return this to her and tell her that I am opposed to the principles of this organization. I certainly don’t want this “messianorah” in my home. My husband initially said to drop the matter, but he’s warming up to the idea of a polite email.

“Your thoughts? I suppose I could be passive-aggressive and send her something from an organization she hates (like a lovely wall hanging from Planned Parenthood), but in addition to this being mean, I doubt she would understand the point.”

Dear Thought,

“I know what you mean about the fundamentalists who just love Israel and Jews. I was mystified by a genuinely lovely family of born-again Christians who seemed to be enamored by my family and Jews in general, and then I learned about all this end-of-days stuff. Meanwhile, they invited us to spend a week with them in an RV visiting the Ark Park (oy vey!), and they send us cards on Jewish holidays with New Testament verses inserted.

“I also share your passive-aggressive impulses, as when relatives kept sending our young children “gifts” of donations to their own synagogue in Florida. So I returned the favor by dedicating a contribution for daffodils in Central Park in their honor.

“I think it’s fine to return the offending “messianorah” (I love that—did you coin it yourself?) either in person or by mail with a brief but clear explanation of why you don’t want a symbol of a distasteful organization in your home. An email explanation would also suffice without returning the menorah, unless your mother-in-law says she would like to get it back. But then let it go, whether she takes your wishes to heart or persists. Any future unwanted gifts can simply be given away or trashed. Hopefully she won’t send you a crucifix next”.  (Comment by Joan Reisman-Brill for the Humanist Society)

A Humanist dilemma: a letter to the local newspaper

Reader:

I know someone who, when she attends luncheons (both business and social), always announces she is a Christian and then asks people around her, “Would you be offended if I pray before the meal?” Often, she gets the attention of the entire group, and invariably they allow her to say grace without protest, regardless of whether they’re okay with that. I think everyone is caught off guard and doesn’t know what to say or do. But I keep running into her and want to be ready for the next round.

“What’s a good response to that question if, indeed, one does mind? I find it cringe-worthy, and I would like her to stop it.  Mind If I Gag?”

 (Answer from Agony Aunt)   Dear Gag,

As someone who has been in circles where my hands were grasped by people around me bowing their heads and thanking Jesus for the meal we were about to consume, I know how awkward and infuriating it can feel, even if it’s just a few fleeting moments. I also know I’m not the only one whose head is unbowed and whose eyes are open, making contact with others’ that are winking or eye-rolling.

If the person is the host, and it’s a private event, I suppose they are entitled to their prayer—and you are entitled to excuse yourself until it’s over. Some people never begin a meal without a prayer, which can be a deeply personal conviction, a habit, or in other cases a calculated display.

Regardless, if it’s a secular function and the person asking to pray isn’t hosting, you are entitled to say yes, you do mind. If that simple response isn’t sufficient to nip the blessing in the bud, you could elaborate that because the gathering is neither Christian nor religious, a public or group prayer would be inappropriate and unwelcome.

It might also be possible to alert the organizers of the event in advance that this request is likely to be made, and perhaps they can advise this person to do her praying beforehand or silently. In this case  the prayers can become brief and non-denominational. 

But perhaps the most powerful response would be to pre-empt this woman by answering her request with a recitation of Matthew 6:5-8:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men … But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray … in the secret place … And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them.”  It should be tough to follow that with a public display of piety.

My take: I feel this person doth protest too much.  Toleration should be the watch- word for all Epicureans.   Does this overt religious behavior really matter?  If you feel so passionately, quietly come back with a smile with your own prayer based on the teachings of Epicurus. ( see my Christmas Day post).  It would make the point without showing you up as preachy and bad-mannered. Better still, don’t attend these meetings if you know you are likely to be offended.   Challenging someone face to face is rude.   It doesn’t help your popularity, either.

How we should treat others – a seasonal exhortation

I suggest that anyone who is reasonably self-aware and seeking to follow in the footsteps of Epicurus should ask whether they have the following personal characteristics which I think are important for humanity.  We might think of them as areas to work on for the New Year where instinct tells them they are a bit weak.  (This list is not in any particular order of priority.  If you want priority work one out for yourself):

Integrity

Honesty

Loyalty

Generosity when you can be generous

Kindness to others in distress

Thoughtfulness towards all

Respect for everyone, regardless of age, race and gender

Consideration for the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged

The treatment of money as a necessity not as a sort of god

Courtesy to others at all times

Reliability

Politeness in public

Patience with the young, old and the less articulate

Lack of boastfulness (a little self-deprecation is charming).

Lastly, a sense of humor, please.  The world looks at philosophers and sometimes finds them, well, wordy.  In any case there isn’t enough humor in life.

As church attendance falls (and at least one religion discredits itself) and children are no longer taught manners and proper human conduct like they used to be;  and vulgarity and cruelty mushroom on the web, maybe there is an opportunity for Epicureans to position themselves as a small but decent group in society, setting an example.

Epicurus did not leave such a list for posterity, but he did live  in accordance with the qualities listed above.  Indeed, maybe in his days, exhorting people to live with integrity, respect etc may have been regarded as too obvious to mention.

Glasses are forbidden

Thousands of Japanese women have taken to social media to share their experiences of being discouraged from wearing spectacles at work, since the practice was exposed in two recent reports. It turns out that a range of firms tell their female employees not to wear glasses, including a domestic airline that cites “safety” issues, retailers who claim bespectacled shop assistants give a “cold impression”, and restaurateurs who think glasses sit uneasily with traditional Japanese dress. (The Week, 15 Nov 2019)

Remember the old rhyme?

Boys don’t make passes
At girls who wear glasses

This story about the Japanese women seems incredibly sexist, and would be howled down in the West.  No one can help having eyesight problems; indeed, if you are short-sighted you cannot go about without your glasses or you can have an accident. Nor, in many cases can you do a number of jobs without 20/20 vision, assisted with glasses or not.

The writer, when young, was at one time distraught because he couldn’t find a girlfriend.  “Get rid of those frightful horn-rimmed glasses and that will solve the problem,” I was told by one pretty girl.  I did and it did! So glassesism has an old history, but doesn’t pass muster now. Or maybe, to be absolutely accurate, you cannot say what you think of those glasses the girl is wearing .

 

Excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita:

“……..Virtuous people find it difficult to believe that such evil exists on earth. It’s proponents, moreover, often proclaim (if they have a degree of intelligence) teachings that are designed purposefully to win others to their side: teachings like “the greatest good for the greatest number” and “each according to his need, from each according to his capacity to give”.  On the field of actual activity, however,they show themselves nothing but power-hungry, ruthless, and utterly cynical in the application of their so-called “ideals”.

Such people appear in every age.  Usually they are more or less successful according to how many dissatisfied Shudras and idealistic but undiscriminating intellectuals they can persuade to fill their ranks.

(16:10).  Abandoning themselves to insatiable desires, hypocrites, pretending a noble purpose, filled with self- conceit, insolent to anyone who disagrees with them, their concepts (assuming they have any) twisted by delusion; their actions prompted solely by impure motives.

(16:11). Convinced that the fulfillment of physical passion is man’s highest goal, confident that there is no world (and no life) but this one, such persons, until the moment of death, are engrossed in earthly cares and concerns.

(16:12) Bound by the fetters of hundreds of selfish hopes and expectations, enslaved by passion and anger, they strive by unlawful means to amass fortunes with which to purchase sensual physical pleasures.

(16.13) “This much” they say, “I have acquired today, putting me in a position to attain this desire. I have this much money at present; my goal now is to acquire more”.

(16.14)  Or they say: “Today I have slain this enemy.  Next, I shall slay more.  What I’ve wanted I  possess. I am successful, powerful and happy”.

(16.15). I am wealthy and well-born!  Who can rival me? I will show my greatness by giving alms and making public sacrifices.  I will rejoice in my glory”.  Thus they boast, befuddled by their own lack of wisdom.

(16.16). Addled in thought, caught in a spider’s web of delusion, craving only sensual “delights”, they sink in life, and even more so after death, to a foul hell.

(16.17). Vain, heedlessly obstinate, intoxicated by pride in wealth, hypocritical in whatever sacrifices they perform, careless of scriptural injunctions….

(16.18).  Egotistical, ruthless, arrogant, lascivious, prone to fits of rage, these evil- intending persons despise Me, though for all that I dwell in them, as in all beings.”

Editor:  I will not comment on this occasion, but  leave the reader to judge its modern relevance.

Linguistic misunderstandings

When they hear the phrase “With the greatest respect…”, 68% of Britons think it means “I think you are an idiot”, while 49% of Americans interpret it as “I am listening to you”.

When told “I’ll bear it in mind”, 55% of Britons assume it means “I’ve forgotten it already”, whereas only 38% of Americans think this way  (YouGov/BBC News)

I have to say these are wild generalisations.  This said, I put the difference down to the influx of European migrants into the US in the 19th Century.  When they learned English they interpreted every word literally, whereas English is a difficult and illogical language, but full of subtleties and metaphors.

Many in today’s US are not good at spotting when something is said ironically, with tongue in cheek, or in a jokey way.  You quickly learn that metaphors and subtleties can be misunderstood by the man in the street, who doesn’t do nuance. Say what you mean, straight, that’s the safe way.

Pity in a way. Some of the best jokes are plays on words.

 

 

Being Epicurean: How to charm a new friend

“I recently met up with an acquaintance for a couple of drinks. By the end of our conversation, I was pretty sure I could write his biography: he told me the ins and outs of his job, his childhood and his love life. As for me? He asked just one question in 3 hours.”

“This is a common experience, says Karen Huang at Harvard Business School, particularly when we are first getting to know someone. “In first encounters, the default behaviour seems to be to want to talk about oneself, in order to impress the other person,” she says. It is rarely as charming as these people imagine.

In laboratory experiments, Huang and her colleagues have found that the number of questions you ask of someone during a  conversation can reliably predict how much they like you afterwards. During a speed-dating event, it also predicted how likely they were to agree to a second date (if speed-dating is really what you want to do).

The specific type of question matters. “Switch” questions, which alter the topic of conversation, are less charming than follow-ups that build on the person’s current topic. “Follow-ups signal a kind of emotional responsiveness and care for the other person,” says Huang. By increasing your understanding of the other person, follow-up questions should also ensure that your own gambits are better suited to their interests.  ( New Scientist, 20 Dec 2019)

Is this a modern disease?  I can’t count the number of times I have been talking to.someone, politely asking questions, taking an interest, and the person concerned ends up knowing nothing whatsoever about me, even my first name.  (can’t be too hard on the first name; I am useless at names myself). An unscientific survey suggests  that men are worse about this than women, who are, or were, brought up to defer to men for the sake of the latter’s egos.  Anyway, right or wrong, it is downright rude to talk about yourself endlessly, treating the other person like a silent marble statue.  Here is a hint to male Epicureans – read and inwardly digest the New Scientist extract above!

Civil marriages

Rome

The number of civil marriage ceremonies in Italy has overtaken the number of church weddings for the first time – a major social shift in the once firmly Catholic country. As recently as 1970, only 2.3% of weddings in Italy were civil ceremonies. Last year, that proportion rose to 50.1%, according to official statistics. This is partly due to the rising proportion of marriages (currently 20%) where at least one spouse not Catholic.  (The Week ).

Italians seem to be reacting to the corruption in the Catholic Church, and the difficulty it appears to be having with restraining its priests from abusing children, plus the stumbling reaction to world outrage.  The fact is that Catholics are  leaving in droves, which would be presumably not be so were the church to abandon celibacy, a doctrine that cannot be found in the words of Jesus and has more to do with church wealth than doctrine.

But who am I to wade into church doctrine?  The formerly faithful are voting with their feet.  Don’t feel sorry for the Vatican.  Have you seen the incredible collection of artwork in the Vatican museum? Do visit, if you can.  The sale of just a handful of masterpieces would fund the church for decades. Sad!  We need someone to give us moral direction, particularly now.

Oh, dear!

Common bottle nose Dolphins have a dominant right-hand side according to research by naturalists.  About 90% of all humans are also right- handed as are gorillas.  It appears, however, that a “right- hand” bias is stronger in dolphins than in humans.

Wow!  The ice is melting, the seas are rising, the volcanos are doing what volcanos do, poor peasants are having to abandon their land and migrate, and right-wing extremists are taking over in one country after another………..and some scientists are wondering if dolphins are right-handed.

Makes you proud to be human.*

* For serious-minded Epicureans this is meant tongue in cheek.  Just thought I should add that.

Dementia misdiagnosed

Hundreds of thousands of older people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may, in fact, be suffering from a different disease.  According to groundbreaking new research, the condition, known as “Late”, affects a fifth of people over 85. Like Alzheimer’s, Late leads to memory loss, cognitive decline and mood disorders (although its progress tends to be slower).

The disease’s neurology, however, is very different: rather than deposits of sticky amyloid plaques and tau proteins, the brains of Late sufferers contain a misshapen form of a different protein, TDP-43. Researchers who work in dementia have long been puzzled by patients who have all the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but whose brains do not contain the pathological features of the condition. We now know that these puzzling patients are probably suffering from Late.

Late’s existence could help explain why attempts to find a treatment for Alzheimer’s haven’t been more successful. Trials of drugs based on clearing out amyloid plaques have probably featured significant numbers of participants who had Late, and not Alzheimer’s – which would have skewed the results.  (The Times and The Week, 11 May2019)

Whatever the strict medical term for it memory loss is a miserable, frustrating  and frightening disease.  I have experience of its effects in my own family, too painful and upsetting an experience to discuss here in public.  But this news did make me think how I could, as a son, have been more patient, more caring, and given my mother more hope, momentary though it would have been.  None of us know whether we will be stricken with memory loss in old age.  To those younger people faced with it in their parents:  stop, draw breath, and tell yourself “ this could be me one day.  Patience.  Patience”.

A home is not a wallet: homelessness in the UK

“Most of the ills relating to our housing start with the morally reprehensible idea that it’s OK in a time of shortage to treat dwellings as mere investments. Yet when the Labour Party in Britain reasonably suggests holiday homes should pay double council tax, affluent owners whimper. Any suggestion of stiffer capital gains gets pearls clutched. And no party has the guts to do as the Danes and forbid non-resident foreigners from owning property in cities. So Manchester and London are pimped out as cosy nest-eggs for Russian and Asian money. Houses aren’t bank vaults, flats aren’t wallets. Landlords have had the law on their side for 30 years and home-owners, too, have had ritzy a ride. It must stop.”(Libby Purves in The Times)

In London as a whole, 170,000 people – equivalent to one in 52 – have no home. Westminster had the most rough sleepers, 217, followed by Camden, with 127. In Kensington and Chelsea, the UK’s richest borough, there were over 5,000 homeless people – equivalent to one in every 29 residents

Why is this? Because London attracts dubious people with ill-gotten cash from all over the world, and , outside the E.U. this situation will now worsen.  Where my (rather  poorly off)  grandmother used to live in London six Russian oligarchs now own houses almost in sight of her old apartment.  Property owning is out of reach there for most people.  And yes, property owners there should pay more.
We should be advocating for a pleasant life for all human beings, not just for the lucky (or corrupt) ones.  This is not a political position; it’s about decency and humanity.

A moment of beauty

The other night my wife’s piano teacher came to our house to conduct a lesson.  This is not usual, I have to say. He not only teaches but is a successful concert performer who has performed all over the world.   It was a one-off.

At the end of the evening I asked him if he would be prepared to give us a treat – to play something for us before he left.  He chose the Chopin Nocturne in D major, opus 27, one of Chopin’s most famous and beautiful piano pieces.  He played it exquisitely., with feeling and tenderness.  What our neighbours thought of this wonderful sound coming to them through the walls at nearly 11 p.m I don’t know, but I hope it was a treat.

The endless torrent of bad news from around the world has made it  an emotional and disturbing period for reasons we have no control over and are not supposed to discuss on this blog. But this was food for the soul, the most beautiful of sounds resonating through the building and bringing with it true ataraxia.  I admit it brought tears to my eyes, beautiful, reassuring and uplifting.

We badly need more beauty and less uninformed partisanship in our lives, and that applies in almost every country in our roiling and disrupted world.

The apostrophe

To The Guardian

I love Kingsley Amis’s response to a challenge about the usefulness of apostrophes: “Those things over there are my husbands.” Three different possible meanings.
Bryan Morgan, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

and a butcher’s trick

To The. Daily Telegraph:

I once saw a notice outside our local butcher. It read “Sausage’s”. When I went in to point out the error, the butcher said: “Yes, I did it deliberately. It brings people like you into the shop. How many sausages would you like?”
Steve Cowling, Knockin, Shropshire., UK

What has this to do with Epicureanism?  Nothing at all.  It’s just that I see, even in publications such as The Washington Post”,  sloppy editing of apostrophes.  Epicureans should be, at the very least, masters of the language.